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You’ve done the work of making a guest list, picking out the menu, and hiring all of the vendors that will help make your day magical, but there might be one small detail that you’ve forgotten: Did you remember to feed your vendors? Providing meals for your vendors is a commonly overlooked piece of the wedding day puzzle. You might be so deep in the weeds of making sure all your guests’ dietary restrictions are taken care of that you’ve forgotten that even your photographer, wedding planner, DJ, and other day-of vendors are going to need to eat, too!
Don’t know how to make sure your vendors are happy and well-fed? We asked the members of our vendor directory to share all the things they wish couples knew about providing vendors meals, and here’s what they had to share.
Which Wedding Vendors Should You Feed
Obviously, you don’t need to provide a meal to every single person who has helped create your day. The rental company that drops the chairs off at 9:00 AM, the florist that drops off your bouquet, and the shop owner of the boutique where you bought your wedding day attire are not expecting you to buy them dinner, but if you have vendors who are on their feet all day with you to ensure your wedding goes off without any problems, then it is customary that you feed them during this time.
“Any vendor who is there and working at meal time should be fed,” says St. Louis wedding planner Cindy Savage of Aisle Less Traveled. “Usually, this will include your photographer, wedding planner, DJ or band, venue manager, photo booth attendant, videographer, and any assistants that come with those folks.” Have a large catering team or large venue staff working your day? Cindy has more advice for you. “If you have a full-service caterer, you don't need to worry about feeding them. They will take care of their own staff meals. If you have a food truck, restaurant drop off buffet, or other alternative meal situation, you should plan to feed the staff you've hired for setup, cleanup, and bartending.”
When you start adding up all the people who will need to eat a meal during this time, the dollar signs are likely to start adding up. Be sure to factor in the cost of feeding these vendors into your overall budget, but also know that you can check with your caterer to see if there are ways you can save on vendor meals. ”Most caterers offer reduced price meals for vendors, so don't forget to ask about that.” says Cindy
When and Where Should Wedding Vendors Eat?
While vendors will be expecting a meal during your wedding, they won’t expect to be treated like a member of the family and be seated right next to you and your partner. In fact, some vendors prefer to have a more private area where they can take a true break while they eat. For certain vendors, like your planner or photographer or videography, you might want to think a bit more carefully about where they are seated.
“In my ideal world, I prefer a table in the same room as the guests that's just for vendors,” says Cindy. “That way we can easily keep an eye on the party and be available to jump up for anything unexpected. If there isn't space in the main room, a table in an adjacent area, like the cocktail hour space, is fine.”
This is something you should plan to discuss with the venue ahead of time. If the venue regularly hosts weddings, it’s likely they will have a designated area for vendors to eat in, but it’s always worth confirming that this spot won’t be a ten minute walk away from the reception area. You want to provide your vendors with a bit of time to breathe and relax, but the last thing you want is to miss out on photos of precious surprise moments.
“Especially as a photographer and videographer, it’s very nerve wracking to be fed in a completely different area because I’m always worried about missing a toast or impromptu awesome moment,” says New York-based Elizabeth Mealey of Weddings by Elizabeth Mealey. Planning ahead with your venue will ensure that this doesn’t happen!
It’s also important to think about when each of your vendors will be eating. It may not always make sense for your food service vendors to grab a bite at the same time as you, but try to coordinate the schedule so that your wedding coordinator, venue manager, DJ, photographer, and videographer are all sitting down to eat at about the same time as you and your partner.
“It’s ideal to be served away from, but in earshot of, guests at the same time they are eating, at least for the photographer,” says New York-based photographer Corey Torpie. “As soon as guests are done we're up again to photograph speeches.” This is pretty critical. You may even want to let your vendors hit the buffet at the same time as your head table so that they can eat and be ready to take photos if you and your partner begin circulating and saying hi to your guests at other tables.
After Working for You All Day, Expect Your Vendors to Be HUNGRY
I speak from experience when I say that you can expect to feel a wave of hunger hit you once your ceremony is over, you feel that sense of relief, and you realize that you haven’t had a single bite of food since breakfast. If you haven’t eaten at any point during the day so far, then your wedding vendors likely haven’t either, especially your photographer, videographer, and planner who have been by your side at every point. That wave of hunger you’re feeling, well, they’re feeling it, too. That’s why it’s important to ensure that you are providing your vendors with enough food to sustain them through the rest of the evening.
“if your caterer is planning to give non-guests ‘vendor meals,’ check and see what those are first,” says Richmond, Virginia photographer Shawnee Custalow. “A lot of times this ends up being something so sad and pitiful, like a cheese sandwich or a pb&j with a bag of chips. After being on my feet, photographing your wedding day for six to eight hours at that point, and smelling all the delicious hot food that is being served, there’s nothing more heartbreaking than getting a cold boxed meal like that. I need an actual meal to keep my body going after carrying around heavy equipment and running around all day. Please make sure your vendors are fed real food. They are working so hard for you and more than deserve it!”
This is where buffets are really helpful. Your vendors can load up on what they need to sustain them, and there will still be plenty of food left behind for all of your wedding guests. Check with your caterer to see what the added cost would be to incorporate your vendor meals into the overall buffet cost so your vendors aren’t left salivating over your guests’ delicious meals.
“I’m such a foodie and it really just breaks my heart when the guests food looks amazing and the vendors food is trash,” says Elizabeth Mealey. “I get that you want to save money, but especially for plated main dishes, they’re going to make extra anyway as they don’t all turn out that well. I honestly don’t mind if you give me the slightly overcooked steak you couldn’t serve to the guests, but if you serve me bland pasta with no protein or greens after a nine to twelve hour day, I will be salty (too bad I can’t season the food with my saltiness!).”
Because of this, our vendors community again wants to stress the benefit of the buffet!
“By dinner, I’m STARVING,” says Cincinnati, Ohio photographer Cassandra Zetta. “As a photographer who is carrying gear and working so hard all day, buffets are the best because I can load up on food. I’m always grateful for plated meals when it’s a sit down style dinner, of course, but even those usually aren’t enough food for me.” Take it from someone who loves to go back for seconds, buffets win the day!
Talk to Your Vendors, and Don’t Forget to Ask About Dietary Restrictions
At the end of the day, if you want to make sure that your vendors are happy and able to give you their best possible performance, talk to them ahead of time about their meal preferences, and more importantly, don’t forget to ask about their own dietary restrictions.
“Some vendors prefer to bring food,” says Connecticut photographer Teresa Johnson. “I have dietary restrictions, so that’s easier for me. I don’t want my clients paying for food I won’t eat. For that reason, I think clients should provide food only if it’s noted in the contract.” Again, if you’re not sure about what your vendors will want to eat, talk to them! They will appreciate that you care, and together you’ll make sure they have all the sustenance they need to work through your wedding day.
Jen Siomacco is the CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Catalyst Wedding Co. She works to mesh together her love of feminism, love stories, accessibility, equality, and design into the Catalyst brand. When she’s not traveling the country working to make the wedding industry a more inclusive place, she’s writing on her couch and snuggled up with her husband and SUPER lazy cats.
Photo by Tiffany Josephs Photography